As most of you know, the South Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative hosted two workshops on Natural Resource Indicators and Surrogate Species during the month of October – one in Raleigh and the other in Savannah. Both were attended by partners from state, federal and non-profit organizations, and they were a key step in developing a shared conservation blueprint for the future of the South Atlantic region.

I attended the first workshop in Raleigh, in which the Fish and Wildlife Service chose to use the South Atlantic LCC’s Natural Resource Indicator process as a starting point for identifying surrogate species to support its mission in the region. While the Savannah workshop included a presentation and crosswalk of both processes, including feedback on the Fish and Wildlife Service’s guidance, its major focus was to identify how to best improve the collective process underway through the South Atlantic LCC.

Several partners presented their efforts to establish conservation objectives and discussed lessons learned. This forum, in combination with a test drive of the proposed natural resource indicator criteria, resulted in substantive feedback and suggestions for improvements to the Cooperative’s Natural Resource Indicator process. The group also brainstormed potential roles and responsibilities related to the monitoring effort that will be required to assess the status of indicators.

Some of the big ideas discussed during both meetings included:

  • The SALCC’s role in assisting partners to integrate efforts at a larger scale is a unique and valuable conservation role. SALCC has no authority, is a voluntary collaborative, and can therefore, operate at the “speed of trust.” Some needs it can fulfill include data integration, planning efforts and defining the terms and conditions of common planning approaches.
  • We face habitat loss, spread of invasive exotic species, water shortages, energy development, and climate change, and at the same time we face declining budgets and less staff overall in our organizations. A natural resource indicators approach can help us prioritize and better focus our conservation actions.
  • We are not looking for a one-size-fits-all biological indicators list. We know that, while this effort will help agencies focus on shared conservation goals, each organization still has certain legal mandates within their organizations and certain species they must plan and manage for and other things they must do.

By aligning conservation goals at a landscape level, partners will align their conservation investments and cooperatively build on other partner efforts that include research, monitoring and data management. I am looking forward to working with partners throughout the South Atlantic LCC to achieve our vision of a landscape that sustains the nation’s natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. If you want to know more about the process please visit our natural resource indicators page, and if you have any questions, please contact Rua Mordecai, rua@southatlanticlcc.org.